- Texas Gov. Rick Perry left this week for an economic development trip to Europe
- His trip comes as Texas officials monitor Dallas health care workers for Ebola
- Democrats criticized Perry for leaving the state while the Ebola threat exists
Texas is still grappling with an Ebola scare, and Gov. Rick Perry -- faced with a test of his leadership ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid -- is in Europe.
In the lead-up to an election that will determine his successor, the three-term Republican governor left this week for a pre-scheduled economic development trip that will include stops in England, Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
His trip comes after a Dallas nurse became the second person diagnosed with Ebola in the state, and as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors dozens more doctors and nurses who treated the first patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week.
Perry's absence has raised eyebrows: Texas Democrats pounced on Perry, saying the episode is characteristic of a governor they've long accused of being too focused on his own political fortunes.
Perry is "an irresponsible leader who's not paying attention to Texans," said Will Hailer, the Texas Democratic Party's executive director. He said departing for a trip just months before Perry's term ends and he departs the governor's office is "Aspiring Politics 101."
"An economic development trip two months before the end of your term, in between jet-setting to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, clearly shows that this is a development trip for Perry," Heiler said.
Though he struggled in a 2012 campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, Perry is widely expected to run again in 2016. The state's response to the Ebola outbreak could be his last high-profile act in the governor's office and potentially shape national perceptions about his capabilities as an executive.
Perry's office defended the timing of his trip, saying he's still engaged in the Ebola response and is using the European trip to talk with officials overseas about the global response to the outbreak in Africa.
"State, local and federal officials continue to manage the response to Dallas' Ebola cases, and the infectious disease task force that Gov. Perry created to review the state's preparedness and response efforts will conduct its first public hearing this month," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said Monday.
"Earlier today, Gov. Perry and Chancellor George Osborne discussed the global repercussions of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and the governor offered to share what we've learned in Texas with the United Kingdom, which is also preparing for the possibility of an Ebola case," she said.
Perry has been publicly involved in the Ebola response. He opposed banning travel between the United States and West Africa and has praised the CDC's involvement in efforts to prevent the disease from spreading.